Published on March 7, 2013 | by Aimee Meade0
International Women’s Day
Friday March 8th is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the female community and a chance to raise awareness on issues that affect women around the world.
Time for action to end violence against women
A key element of the celebration is to empower women in all countries, and the global involvement of charities, organisations, governments, schools, and many more have helped to enlighten communities on the trials of women internationally.
Each year the UN declares a theme for International Women’s Day, and for 2013 the theme is: “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”.
Violence against women is a devastating problem faced globally, and by targeting it as the theme for this year’s celebration, it means more people have an opportunity to provide support and learn more about those affected.
The first International Women’s Day, or ‘International Working Women’s Day’ as it was originally known, was held in Russia in 1913, and since then it has grown into a global day of awareness dedicated to women from all over the world.
In London, events are being held on March 8th across the city, including events in collaboration with the Oxfam charity, a major supporter of the day.
Arts London News spoke to The Fawcett Society, the UK’s leading campaigners for equality between men and women in the United Kingdom. An interview with Preethi Sundaram, their Policy and Campaigns Manager, can be seen here.
We also spoke to students at London College of Communication about their perceptions on what it means to be a feminist today.
The Fawcett Society: not burning bras since 1866
THE FEMINIST charity and leading campaign group for gender equality in the United Kingdom, The Fawcett Society, has been fighting with its abundance of celebrity supporters against stereotypes connected to the word ‘feminist.’
The society’s tongue in cheek slogan ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ is emblazoned across merchandise as worn by comedian Bill Bailey, artist Tracey Emin, former London mayor Ken Livingstone and BBC journalist Samira Ahmed.
“Where there is a equality gap between women and men we’re working close to it.”
The Fawcett Society.
The Fawcett Society, who have been campaigning against gender inequality since 1866, state their aim on their website:
“Our vision is of a society where women and our rights and freedoms are equally valued and respected and where we have equal power and influence in shaping our own lives and our wider world.”
With lobbying power behind them, The Fawcett Society has a significant influence at the top of the countries politics and among those who make decisions.
Successes of the society include a change in the law to allow political parties to use all women shortlists to increase the number of female MP’s, a fairer system for appointing judges and a new duty of public bodies to promote gender equality.
The society campaigns for women’s representation in both politics and public life, campaigning for equal pay, pensions and poverty and valuing caring work and the treatment of women within the justice system.
At present The Fawcett Society are campaigning on two fronts, Cutting Women Out and Women and Power.
Cutting Women Out
The ‘Cutting Women Out’ campaign is against the entrenched economic inequality women are facing.
The Fawcett Society argue that women are hit hardest by the job cuts in the public sector, the withdrawal of services and benefits that they use more and women will be left to fill the gap of state services that have been cut.
Women and Power
Their most recent campaign ‘Women and Power’ is aiming to increase the number of women in parliament as currently women are outnumbered 4 to 1 by men.
The society claim: “At the current rate of progress a child born today will be drawing her pension before she has an equal voice in the government of her country.”
LCC Students want Equality not Feminism
Unfashionable feminism has left some students at London College of Communication in favour of a more equal stance arguing that feminists are seen as extreme and unnecessary while others believe there is more to be done for women’s rights.
Campaigning for women’s rights is no longer needed according to the students Arts London News interviewed.
Advertising student Cecilia Dinwoodie, 19, from North Acton said: “I think we are pretty much equal, in the UK anyway. I don’t think anything really needs to be done.”
Fellow advertising student Maria Florez, 20, from Elephant and Castle agreed: “ I haven’t seen anyone being treated badly such as you cannot do this, you cannot do that or dress like this, so I think it’s alright. I cannot see any discrimination here.”
“I think compared to the beginning we are pretty much there, if you look at how women were treated back at square one I think we are fine now.”
Photography Student at LCC
However, Clare Hiles, 21, from North Acton disagreed: “I do not think that we are equal at all. I think jobs are really unequal, London is especially a masculine power house, especially in the financial district and to a extent journalism.”
The Gender Gap
Feminist charity The Fawcett Society, a society that fights the feminist stereotype, argues that women experience a full-time pay gap is 14.9 percent.
In fact 40 years after the Equal Pay Act women still earn less, own less and are more likely to live in poverty. The inequality is even reflected within our government with women being outnumbered 4 to 1 by men.
Facts like this would surely justify feminism. Arts London News asked photography student Joe.
He said: “I believe more in equality than feminism. I think it’s a tainted word, it mostly reminds people of angry lesbian women who hate men.”
“I’m not a feminist, I believe in equality rather than just women’s rights. Stereotypically feminism is not seen as a positive thing because it is associated with lesbians and burning your bra.”
LCC Advertising Student
Clare Hiles however is happy to call herself a feminist: “If you had asked me that question a year ago I would of said no as I would of associated it with some form of extremism but now I know it is about empowering women, equal rights for both men and women and I now associate it with equality not extremism.”
What about the boys?
In recent years there has been an increased concentration on male rights. With books such as ‘The Second Sexism: Discrimination against Men and Boys’ by David Benatar and Hanna Rosin’s ‘The End of Men’ circulating in the media it is no wonder that men are worried they are getting a raw deal.
Men are being left behind educationally. UCAS reported last year in their end of cycle report that there are a third more females than males applying for university. Girls are reportedly out-performing males at A-Level stage too.
Men’s rights campaigners such as Fathers4Justice campaign for equal rights in parenting as they believe the courts favour the mother in custody battles and they recently protested against Asda’s ‘Behind every great Christmas there’s Mum’ television advert.
Watch Fathers4Justice here:
The students that Arts London News spoke to said that men have just as much right to campaign but did not see it as necessary.
Joe Nichol said: “I think men’s inequality is more to do with the law than sexism, I wouldn’t campaign more men’s rights.”
Clare Hiles agreed that men have the right to campaign but insisted that: “it should not be extreme.”
The Journalism student continued to say: “I guess my personal belief is equality across the board. Rights as a mother and a father should be equal. I understand women give birth but a good father is a good father.”
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